English Premier League terminates lucrative Chinese TV deal with immediate effect

In November 2019, a fan “spent” 386,000 hotel points for VIP access to a Manchester United match, which included flying with the team on a charter plane to Kazakhstan.
Ash Donelon | Manchester United | Getty Images

England’s Premier League has terminated a major contract with Chinese streaming service PPTV, meaning the digital broadcaster will no longer be able to show live top-flight soccer matches.

“The Premier League confirms that it has today terminated its agreements for #PL coverage in China with its licensee in that territory,” the Premier League announced on Twitter on Thursday.

“The #PL will not be commenting further on the matter at this stage,” the statement said.

PPTV is owned by Suning, a Chinese conglomerate that bought a majority stake in Italian club Inter Milan for $307 million in 2016. 

In the same year, PPTV reportedly paid the Premier League around $650 million for the rights to broadcast fixtures between 2019 and 2022. The three-season deal was hailed as the Premier League’s biggest overseas TV contract but it has now been terminated after just one season. 

PPTV withheld a payment of £160 million ($213 million) for coverage of the 2019/20 season that was due in March, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. 

Around the same time, the Premier League was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new season commences on Sept. 12. 

It had been suggested that PPTV may have pulled the plug on the deal due to the rising tensions between the U.K. and China. This year, the U.K. has banned 5G equipment made by Chinese telco Huawei from its networks and Prime Minister Boris Johnson opposed the new security laws imposed in Hong Kong.

Suning did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment but PPTV reportedly said in a statement: “After many rounds of talks, there remain disagreements on the value of rights between PPTV and the Premier League. Regrettably we have not reached an agreement with the Premier League.”

“Despite PPTV paying more than the copyright cycle fee to Premier League in advance, as agreed, PPTV will terminate its cooperation with the Premier League,” the statement said.

Money from TV rights gets passed down to the 20 clubs in the Premier League so the contract termination could hurt everyone from Manchester United and Liverpool to Leeds and Sheffield United.